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The Leading Edge March 2014
Small Business Success
Taking Care of Business  

    Contents
In this Issue

What Colour is Your Business?

Beat the Bullies

Mugs - Promo Idea Worth Rethinking

Podcast Marketing

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THE LEADING EDGE - your monthly link to groundbreaking ideas for entrepreneurs

Technology Unlocks "Economies Of Unscale" For Small Businesses


Small Business News:

CFIB - Business Barometer®: Optimism on the rise again among small businesses - February 2014 (Ted Mallett, Vice-President & Chief Economist) - Small business owners are showing a little more optimism in February. CFIB's Business Barometer® Index rose 0.4 points to 64.4 this month, expanding on its 1.7 point gain in January. The index is now running about half a point better than its average for 2013. Read more...


Landmark report ranks provincial governments on small business vision - Entrepreneurs put Saskatchewan on top; Quebec, Manitoba lagging way behind. Read more...


Federal Budget gets a bronze from small business: CFIB - Toronto, February 11, 2014 - Canada's small business owners welcomed several measures from today's federal budget, particularly efforts to eliminate the deficit, reduce credit card processing fees for merchants and consumers and cut the cost of the public service. Read more...


Social media shake up: Big changes coming for Canadian businesses - A recent report from BMO Financial Group shows 57% of small businesses in Canada now use social media, a 42% increase from last year. And the way tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are being applied are increasingly sophisticated. Read more...

 
    What Colour is Your Business?
 
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This month, the Leading Edge is taking a look at marketing with some neat ideas on how you can beat out the competition and get noticed.


Do you every think of your business in terms of colour? You probably have a corporate colour, or at least a predominant colour in your logo - but do you know what it might be saying to your customers, or prospects?

Let's take a look at the character and attitudes colours might represent.

RED is the colour of passion, love, battle and celebration. Think about those dozen red roses on Valentine's Day. On the other hand red can also mean stop, or danger. In business, if your company is in the 'red' it's losing money. Used in a logo, or branding, it can indicate excitement, action, strength and that your company is driven. Remember though that it can also elicit feelings of danger and wariness. It is a colour that stimulates people, be that to "see red" or as some people report, eat more depends on how it used and what it is used to promote.

BLUE indicates loyalty and being faithful - perhaps that's why it is so often used as a corporate colour. Brides wear something blue on their wedding day to indicate their commitment. It is also the colour of nobility - "being blue blooded" as in the aristocracy. It is also used when referring to something unexpected such as "it came out of the blue" - when we are brainstorming we are "blue-skying." So, on the upside it indicates conservatism and perseverance, but the flip side is that can also be seen by some as indicating your company is rigid and perhaps even a tad boring. When all is said and done, most people say it is their favourite colour.

Royalty favours PURPLE, it's a symbol of authority and rank. It is said that Cleopatra loved purple - she apparently ordered her servants to soak 20,000 Purpura snails for ten days to extract a dye. Leonardo da Vinci believed that purple was capable of heightening the imagination, as did Richard Wagner. In business it can be used to suggest ornamentation and creativity, intuitiveness and humanity. However, some people may see it as a sign of immaturity, or even pomposity. If you are an international company, you may want to be cautious when using purple in your branding as it is the colour of death and mourning in many cultures.

GREEN We've all heard the phrases "green with envy" and "green-eyed monster" which indicate that this colour is linked to jealousy. It is also the colour used in traffic lights to indicate moving forward and in gardeners a "green thumb" is a sign of someone good at growing things. This is probably where the colour became attached to the green, or sustainable environment movement. In business it can indicate growth, vitality, compassion, environmental awareness, kindness, and generosity of spirit. On the downside, some may see it as being "hippie" or by potential investors as a company more interested in the environment than in making money.

YELLOW - This is the colour that has been used to indicate cowardness - "He had a yellow streak". On a more positive note it is a warm, happy colour - it denotes playfulness and freshness. It is also said to inspire creative thinking and academic prowess. Used in your company it can indicate confidence, creativity and open thinking. In many religions it is used to denote a deity. It is the cautionary sign used in traffic lights. Overall though, it is an optimistic colour.

ORANGE - is the favourite colour of most children and is also seen as a "sale" colour, so is often used to promote bargains. It denotes excitement, vitality, good cheer, warmth, adventure, and good health. It is also the colour life vests and other high visibility clothing are made from. In business it has more good traits than bad, but if misused can look cheap, or lower class.

WHITE is of course not really a colour at all but a tone (ask a scientist and he/she will give you a very long discourse on this topic) - it represents purity and therefore wedding businesses, or others promoting a fresh, clean, pure product will latch on to this 'colour'. White is a calm colour that gives one a clean canvas on which to work, but it can be seen as sterile. If using it in business use it cautiously and with another colour - a pastel perhaps?

BLACK is all about elegance and sophistication, but then it has its dark side (no pun intended) as it is also the colour of evil and secrecy, power and control. If we say, "the business is in the black" that is a good thing. However black humour is suspect, and black sheep in families are bad, but that little black dress? How could that be bad? Young people are drawn to black so if you want to attract that market black could work very well for you. For a mature market, black packaging looks expensive and gives a product a sense of gravitas.

When it comes down to it there are pros and cons to all colours, and in this article we didn't look at the thousands of tones and hues that we can use in our branding today - not to mention metallic finishes. Having some idea of what emotions colours generate, can help you decide what to use in your next promotional campaign, so think about your product or service and who you are marketing it to. After all, would you honestly choose pink for a new range of boxing gloves? The answer is yes, if they are aimed at female boxers!

 
   
Beat the Bullies Top

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As I write this, the news is fully of stories about bullies and bullying. Most often this centres on the schoolyard, but have you ever felt bullied by the big company down the road - that competitor that seems to punch a lot harder than you can?

Just like in the schoolyard, sometimes the little guy can fight back and kick butt! And when they do it's a sweet victory. So, what do you have to do to look that annoying competitor in the eye and not be afraid?

1. Study Your Competition

Every business has its strengths and weaknesses. You need to be aware of both your competitors' strong points, and the places where room for improvement is quite obvious. Create a simple table with three columns in MSWord, or whatever word processing software you use and in the left column write 'Competition' on the middle one write 'Strengths' and in the right hand column right 'Weaknesses'. Now, list yourself first and think about all your own company's strengths and weaknesses, followed by your competitions. Then look for the points where you are stronger than they are and focus on these areas in your marketing.

2. Be Flexible

Don't expect your competitor to broadcast his next move so that you can be prepared to block it. You've got to think a step ahead, and be ready to outsmart his next maneuver. Make it a habit to watch what your competition is doing - what products, or services are they advertising - how does their pricing compare to yours - what new inventory do they have? Don't be caught by surprise when they launch their next promotion.

3. Take A Lesson From Martial Arts

I used to practice Judo as a young teenager and one of the most important things it taught me was to use my opponent's energy and forward momentum against them. If they launch a major campaign they are bringing their product range to the attention of the general public, this is the time for you to piggyback on their marketing expenditure and promote your company (with far fewer dollars of course). If they are a box store, then you promote yourself as the 'Buy Local' alternative. They may have got people thinking about buying what you sell - your job is to get them to consider buying from you instead. The other thing about these big stores is that they often can't deliver the same level of customer services as you can, so promote something personal, some added value component that they can't.

Beating bullies has always been about facing up to them, they may look intimidating but most of the time it's all bark and no bite. Take a good long look at your competition and start looking for where they are weak and use that when you next consider how to market what you sell.

 
   
Mugs - Promo Idea Worth Rethinking Top
 

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Most small businesses watch their pennies carefully, and though they realize they have to spend marketing dollars it's sometimes hard to know where to spend them, especially as one good-sized advertisement in the local newspaper can make a heck of a dent in your annual promotional budget.

There used to be a time when mugs with corporate logos on them were everywhere, but at some stage this simple and cost-effective promotional tool seems to have gone out of fashion. Let's face it, coffee is probably the most consumed office beverage of all and your customers, and prospective customers will be reaching for a mug in the staff room several times today.

Brand awareness is important and much of it is subliminal, so having your logo and tag line viewed several times a day by prospects is a great way to build that awareness. Coffee mugs offer a two-punch promotional hit; first when you give the mug to a client and the second when they use it time and time again.

People love receiving gifts, no matter what they say, and a coffee mug is so functional that you know it will be used and not thrown away the second you leave a prospect's office like your brochure, or business card perhaps.

Take a look online and you will find that you can purchase 144 simple white mugs, with your logo printed on them for less than $120. That seems a heck of a good way of spending some promotional budget. If you can't see yourself using hundreds of mugs, many manufacturers will let you order as few as a dozen - and that will cost you less than $50!

Why give a mug?

  1. They initiate immediate interest when you give them away.
  2. They offer a long-lasting way of promoting your brand image.
  3. They can be used for product promotion (i.e. buy two widgets and get a free mug).
  4. They are a low cost - high impact promotional item.
  5. They cross all types of business.

One thing to bear in mind; if you are in a high-end market, then choose a prestige mug, not the cheapest one on the website. The impact made by giving a cheap white ceramic mug compared to that of a beautiful two-tone stoneware one can be significant. The last thing you want to look is cheap.

Photo Credit: http://www.promotionalgiftsshop.com

 
   
Podcast Marketing Top

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In case you haven't noticed the world of marketing is changing quicker than many of us can keep up with.

It used to be that a marketing budget focused on advertising in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, direct mail, telemarketing, cold calling and even infomercials. All these things of course still exist, but are predominantly the purview of larger companies with budgets we could only dream of - and are they really that effective?

Then came the Internet and we all created our own websites (using them like brochures), advertised on websites using banner ads, created reciprocal links, and bought pay-per-click ads from Google and the like. Later, blogs became huge as a way to build a following, and we started collecting email addresses. Search engine optimization (SEO) was and still is a massive industry if the sheer quantity of emails I get daily from India and China are anything to go by.

It used to be so simple, take an ad in the local paper and pretty much your entire market knew you existed; today it's all about being online, but the number of companies promoting themselves in this environment is almost unimaginable. If only we knew what was going to work for our small business?

Do you know how big YouTube really is? No? Well let me give you a few facts:

  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube every month - that's nearly an hour for every person on earth.
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute.
  • More video is uploaded every month than the major 3 U.S. TV networks created in the last 60-years.
  • Over one million YouTube videos are viewed every day on Smart phones.

We are getting information via audio and video from the Internet like never before - our appetite seems to be insatiable. Think about the last time you need to know how to do something. Perhaps you wanted to repair your toaster - chances are you went online and sought out a video that showed you how to do the repair. We've all done it and so have millions of others.

Podcasting takes this one small step further and is the perfect tool for reaching a qualified target audience. What is a podcast? It's an audio broadcast published on the Internet. The broadcast is delivered to subscribers via a feed, usually in an MP3 file format.

The Wikipedia definition is: A podcast or netcast is a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audio, video, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. The word is a neologism and portmanteau derived from "broadcast" and "pod" from the success of the iPod, as audio podcasts are often listened to on portable media players.

Similar to the concept of opt-in email, podcasting takes full advantage of new technology in reaching a pre-qualified, self-selected audience that craves the information and expertise the podcaster provides. Your marketing strategy should be to position yourself as an expert to people seeking information. The spider-in-the-web method of advertising.

We've always known that the way to a client's heart is to share useful, valuable information with them. In the past we've done this through trade shows, conferences, seminars, newsletters, free articles, blogs and a host of other ways.

Today's strategy is to attract subscribers to your podcast as they search for information, and then keep them coming back for more, all the time building a relationship of trust. The more useful the information you provide, the more of an expert you will become in the eyes of prospects. This trust will eventually turn subscribers into customers.

Podcasts are just like newsletters, or press releases and can be used to present news, or other information useful to existing clients, and the general public. A tax-consulting firm for instance might provide updates on tax laws, or information on how to pay less tax.

Think of a podcast as an audio version of an electronic, or print newsletter. Podcasting doesn't have to cost much at all, but can leave a lasting impression on listeners, and build a loyal following.

Keen to get started? There are lots of sites that will help you get started - one that is free is www.podbean.com. It has 664,341 podcasters, 2,287,158 episodes, 3,878,468,707 downloads as of March 2014.

 
   
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